It was a warm night in July 2018 when Oklahoma City police launched a manhunt for a child. An eight-year-old boy in foster care ran away in the middle of the night and set the entire city on alert. The boy, Elijah, disappeared just a few weeks after his older brother, 12, suddenly vanished. It was terrifying for the community and the foster parents, to say the least.
The Oklahoma City police department wasted no time. They set their best investigators, detectives, and plain-clothes officer on the search. But it wasn’t enough, so they contacted nearby police departments and asked if they had any resources they could spare to hunt down this 8-year-old boy in the middle of the July night.
However, the search was for naught. It soon became clear that Elijah was not lost or missing but under the care of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) where he was being transferred to another foster family.
Oklahoma has way too many children requiring foster care, the Director of the State Department of Human Services wrote in a 2014 article that was published on NewsOK and read widely in 2014. At the time of that article, a whopping 11,400 children were under the custody of DHS in Oklahoma. And that number was way too many children for the civil servants and underpaid social workers to handle.
“When you take the child out of his or her world, bad things happen to that child emotionally,” Ed Lake said. “So we can protect children physically sometimes and damage them further emotionally.”
Lake was a very emotionally aware childcare worker. And he understood how difficult it was for children to be shuffled from house to house from family to family. Elijah was no exception.
His mother Atashia claimed that he had established temporary residence at his grandmother’s home while the DHS found him a new foster family. The reason Elijah was in foster care was because Atashia’s husband and the boy’s father was under investigation for abuse charges, and appeared to put the boy in danger.
While he was with his grandmother, Elijah allegedly ran away because he did not want to be thrown into yet another foster care situation. He’d rather be out on the streets of Oklahoma City in July than deal with the emotional toll going from house to house took on his psyche.
When Elijah was found, he did not get his wish. He was thrown back into DHS custody and forced to go to a new foster home. And the cycle of emotional turmoil continued to turn for little Elijah.
The heartbreaking video below tells Elijah’s story. And you should remember that he is just one of more than ten thousand children in Oklahoma who has to deal with the stress of foster care. While the people who work in the foster care situation are generally good people, the uncertainty puts a toll on the children.
What do you think about Elijah’s story? What do you think can be done to help children like him?
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